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May 25, 2016 / 17 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Spend Quality Time Alone With Your Spouse

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

For my new book, Connect to Love, the Keys to Transforming Your Relationship, I studied over 500 women throughout the world, discussing with them their deep emotions and genuine perspectives on relationships. As with my previous research with men, there were many surprises. However, I know have a better understanding of the significant areas that couples can focus on to make their relationship better in a short period of time. My research showed that more women cheated than people think. This is probably because 62% of the cheating women said they didn’t tell the truth to their husbands. But equally astounding was that 51% of faithful women admitted that they were seriously considering divorce. Only 30% of women said they were happily married.

Understanding that this research was not conducted with a frum or exclusively Jewish group, we can still learn a great deal from the honest stories and assessments of women from all walks of life. I am always interested in using my research to find the clearest path to marital satisfaction. Everyone has good advice but I wanted to be able to prove to the best of my ability, the few things that would make the greatest change so that you’d spend your time and energy wisely. Here are some of those crucial issues:

Time: The majority of satisfied women reported spending a daily average of over 30 minutes of uninterrupted time talking to their husbands (22% said they spent over 60 minutes a day) whereas the majority of unhappy women spent less than 30 minutes (23% of them said they spent less than 5 minutes a day). This makes sense; we can talk until we’re blue in the face about better communication skills and understanding but let’s face it, if there’s no time to consistently connect, all of the rest doesn’t matter.

If there is one thing you can do to make your marriage better, create this 30-minute period – on a daily basis – to chat and relax with your spouse. Shut off the phone, Blackberry and computer (I once had a wife tell me, “My husband is cheating with fruits: his Apple and Blackberry). Finding this time is complicated for most couples. Childcare and work can leave us completely exhausted. You might feel like you can’t do another thing yet alone create a 30-minute period to talk and relax with your spouse. But it’s worth it. Consider that to be successful in any area of your life, you put a great deal of time and energy into it. Your marriage is no different.

Successful couples will tell you their secret is continued focus on their love and working at finding time and energy for their marriage. Those who think that love is all you need to be happily married are in for a sad surprise. Love is the starting point, but true love finds consistent energy to keep that love vibrant.

Appreciation: The number two answer of what emotional issues make a huge difference in their happiness is being appreciated. Whenever I ask a couple to write what they appreciate about their spouse, the list is always very short. Maybe they can crank out two or three items – but the most obvious ones are usually missing. When I ask why being a great parent, worker, etc., isn’t on the list I always get the same reply, “Well, he/she is supposed to do that.” Somehow we have developed an attitude that appreciation is only for those things we don’t expect to have done. Yet, we yearn to be loved and seen as valuable people. We deserve appreciation for any effort, even for things we would do not matter. When we are appreciated, we feel valued. It’s powerful and luckily, often so easy and quick to offer. Write a list of things you appreciate about your spouse and give it to him/her. Tell and show your spouse how appreciative you are and it’ll likely come back to you immediately.

There were other crucial issues that I look forward to sharing in future columns. In addition, in my book, Connect to Love, I detail a 2-week program that will make your relationship better.

In the end, all of us want to really feel connected. When we marry, we want to know there is that one person who wants to know the real us, the deeper person. We want our spouse to see the best in us, inspire us and want to love us more and more. I hope you have the chance to review my work and please let me know your thoughts. Together we can learn a great deal about connecting to love.

Rabbi M. Gary Neuman

Teenage Internet Addiction

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Is Internet addiction the main cause of today’s at-risk crisis? It’s a topic most people shy away from, but it’s one that needs to be addressed. Everyday more and more teens are getting hooked on the Internet and the effect of surfing may be taking its toll on our youth.


The Internet has quickly become the number one media pre-occupation our children are busy with each day. Worse, not only are teens spending one to several hours a day surfing the web, the content they are viewing has become progressively more violent and contains more explicit material than ever before. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, a groundbreaking national survey of 1,500 youth aged 10 to 17 documented that:


*More than one-third of youth Internet users (34%) saw “inappropriate” material online they did not want to see.


*The increase in exposure to unwanted material occurred despite the use of filtering, blocking and monitoring software in households of youth Internet users.


*Online harassment of youth has increased by 9% over the last five years.


These statistics should sound an alarm for parents concerned about their children’s development. Here’s why: For many teens Internet use has become an addiction, and, like all other addictive substances and activities, Internet addiction requires a therapeutic approach to wean its adherents away from this self-destructive behavior.


I know it may take a slight leap of creativity to connect the Internet to drug abuse but here are the similarities: Like addiction to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine, Internet addiction is marked by symptoms of increasing tolerance, withdrawal, mood changes and interruption of social relationships. Children and adolescents who have become addicted to the Internet will require increasing amounts of time online in order to feel satisfied. When they do not have access they may have symptoms of withdrawal including anxiety, depression, irritability, trembling hands, restlessness and obsessive thinking or fantasizing about the Internet.


Independent of the depressing effects of excessive Internet use, the most devastating impact of Internet addiction may be the decreased amount of quality time teenagers have with their parents. Just like other addictions, the Internet addict probably suffers from feelings of emotional and physical isolation from his or her friends and family and spends little time involved in healthy relationships which are the basis for positive emotional development.


The lack of quality time spent with parents may also be the most significant factor leading to at-risk behavior. In fact, I once asked a group of high school juniors and seniors at a well-known Jewish day school what they felt were the most important issues teens face. These were the students’ answers according to their own ranking, starting with the most important:


Disappointment and anger with parents

Dislike of teachers

The intense desire to be accepted and fit in with friends

The desire to be adults and the fact that they were still under parents’ control

The internal pressures of trying to develop and act on personal values as opposed to those of parents and friends

The powerful forces of media encouraging experimentation with sex and alcohol

The enormous physical and psychological changes that occur at this time of life


Surprisingly, issues like physical changes, peer pressure and drug use were placed low on the students’ list, whereas poor relationships with their parents and teachers were ranked highest. In general, these teenagers seemed alienated from their parents and felt that their teachers had somehow let them down. Add to this a teenager’s sense of isolation from parents and family members and the connection between Internet use and the at-crisis becomes more and more apparent.


A comprehensive research brief published by Child Trends, entitled Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions Far More Positive Than Not, showed a direct correlation between the quality of the parent-teen relationship and the impact the relationship has on a teenager’s life.


In addition to the damage the Internet may cause to family relationships, excessive Internet usage can also be masking more difficult problems that teenagers are facing. It may therefore be necessary to seek outside help for a child with Internet addiction.


How much Internet use is too much? Parents can ask the following questions that can be answered in one of three possible ways: rarely, frequently or always:


-How often do they find that they stay online longer than they intended?

-How often do they form new relationships with unknown fellow online users?

-How often do their grades suffer because of the amount of time they spend online?

-How often do they find themselves anticipating when they will go online again?

-How often do they choose to spend more time on-line rather than going out with others?


If they answer “frequently” or “always” to at least four out of the five questions, then it may be a sign that they are hooked on the Internet and could use some help weaning themselves away from constant use.


How can I wean my teen off the Internet?


The first suggestion is for parents to end their child’s isolation and check up on them every 15 minutes to see what they are watching. They can also surf together with the child on various sites and turn “alone” time into “family” time. The trick is to come up with something fun and engaging that places both you and your child in the same environment.


While you sit together in front of the computer screen, you could casually discuss some of the dangers of the Internet and the sites that may be damaging to their emotional well being. A good place to start is to discuss the dangers of chat rooms and to speak openly about who may be online and what possible predators may be looking for.


Another helpful strategy is to gently wean your child away from the Internet. If, for example, your child surfs for two hours a night, you can make the first move by saying, “I think surfing every night for two hours is too much. You can keep on surfing, but from now on, you can pick three nights a week if you want to go online. Which night do you prefer? It’s your choice.” You don’t have to abruptly cut off all Internet use; rather you can start by limiting their constant exposure and empower them with a choice of when they want to be online.


Many parents seem apprehensive about butting in on their teen’s computer time. I have found, however, that when someone is hooked online and asked to cut back they may be initially reluctant, but in the end they will be thankful to you for reducing their dependence. Often teens get carried away and will appreciate having someone help them renew their sense of balance and proportion.


By far, the most effective tool against Internet addiction is to schedule quality time with your child away from the computer. That means parents and teens should schedule a “date night” each week.  Taking a walk together to the park, going out to eat, ice skating, volunteering, doing chesed, learning a hobby or just throwing a ball around are some of the activities that make life fun and bind families together.


When life gets hectic and time is limited, you can spend a few minutes alone just schmoozing in a quiet room of your house – without a computer or video screen. Most importantly, during your “dates,” try to talk about matters that they think are important. What matters most is to give your teenager a feeling that he or she is the most important person in the world. These moments of relationship building can give your child the proper amount of emotional nourishment needed to end their dependence and wean themselves off the addictive effects of the Internet.


As Rabbi Abraham Twerski points out in the introduction to my book, At Risk – Never Beyond Reach, “It has been shown that the single most effective intervention for the widest variety of teen and adolescent problems was also the easiest, speediest and least expensive: The implementation of family mealtimes.” This is because family mealtime fosters relationships. If your child is spending his or her entire evening surfing the web, then there’s no way he is gaining the positive benefits of quality time with his family.



Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is a marriage and family therapist and maintains a private practice in Brooklyn. He is the author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach”. To make an appointment call 646 428 4723, email: rabbbischonbuch@yahoo.com or visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com



Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

I Wasted My Years (Part One)

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I just finished reading your book, The Committed Marriage. How I wish I had discovered this wonderful book years ago. How different my life could have been.

I write this letter with a heavy heart. From the outset, I want to make it quite clear that I am not writing with the anticipation of a solution to my problem. I am writing with the request that you publish my letter (anonymously, of course), so that others might learn from my mistakes. It is for this reason that I decided to write although this is probably the most painful letter I have ever written.

I grew up in a typically secular Jewish home. Once a year we went to the local temple in our neighborhood for the High Holy Days. On Chanukah, we lit a menorah, and on Passover we had a Seder (only the first night). All these rituals were carried out perfunctorily, without meaning or content. They were superficial acknowledgments of being Jewish. Our home was not kosher, our Sabbaths were just Saturdays, taken up with shopping, sports, or other activities.

When I was 14 my parents divorced. It was a bitter separation. Without going into too many details, there were many ugly accusations and recriminations. In any event, my father left, remarried and started a new family. My mother, on the other hand, dated and had many relationships, but never quite made it to marriage. We had always enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, but once the divorce took place, everything changed. The final settlement did not allow us luxuries, and suddenly, we found ourselves on a very tight budget.

My mom, who was never too calm, became temperamental, and would lose her cool at the drop of a hat. The divorce settlement forced us to visit with our father, and those meetings were very painful. I resented his new wife and her taking my mom’s place. I resented her for disrupting our family and I am certain that she also resented me.

I was under tremendous pressure from my mom to do well in school so that I might be eligible for a college scholarship. She kept insisting that before I even consider marriage, I must have a career. “It’s important that you be independent and capable of supporting yourself,” she always said.

Throughout my high school years I worked very hard, although it wasn’t easy. I was in therapy for quite some time, but I never worked out my problems. I never adjusted to the new dynamic of our family. I had no choice but to accept the new reality and try to make the best of it. I had to be tolerant of my mom’s boyfriends and relationships, be privy to all the ups-and-downs, which punctuated her private life, and then, accept my father’s “new family.”

It was more than any teenager should have to deal with. My two brothers were equally impacted by the trauma, and they chose the destructive path of alcohol and drugs. They hung out with girls until the early hours of the morning. My mother would scream and yell, but they paid no heed and continued their self-destructive path. I couldn’t wait to graduate and escape the madness in my home. I was anxious to go to a university as far away from my parents as possible. I worked very hard with one goal in mind – escape! When I was graduated, I received a scholarship to a good university.

I had many relationships in college, but marriage was never even considered an option. My goal was to finish my education, find a good position, travel, enjoy life, and in time, marry and settle down.

When I finished college, I went on to graduate school, all the time bearing in mind my mother’s admonition, “Make a career for yourself! Become independent!”

I decided to go into medicine because I felt that would be the most secure and lucrative profession I could undertake. It was a long haul and a lot of hard work, but it was a worthwhile investment. I specialized in Ob/Gyn, thinking that it is one field for which there is always a demand. I worked very hard and did my residency in New York, and was elated to be accepted as a fellow in a prestigious Manhattan hospital. I was so overwhelmed with work during that period that I didn’t have time to even consider a serious relationship.

After completing my fellowship, I joined a highly successful practice. Once again, I was consumed by work with very little time left for socializing and a personal life. This, more or less, sums up my background. I share it with you so that you may better understand the conflicts and regrets that haunt me now.

Today, I am 45-years-old. I don’t know where the years went, but I can’t deny them, although people tell me that I can easily pass for 35. But I am 45 years old and the best years of my life have passed me by. I bring babies into the world, and it breaks my heart that I don’t have a baby of my own.

My biological clock has ticked away without my realizing it. So here I am – 45 and all alone. Yes, I have savings… a good profession – but so what? I don’t have a family. I don’t even have nieces and nephews. My brothers never married…. they’re all messed up. My mother, in her old age, has become more temperamental and demanding. I find it very difficult to communicate with her because every visit ends up in conflict with tension and shouting. My father has his own life, his own family.

Yes, I have no lack of dates, but the men I meet all seek relationships rather than the stability of marriage. So why am I writing this letter to you? Because I know that you have a wide readership and people respect your opinion. So, I would like to tell all the women out there who have bought into our culture’s value system: “Don’t sacrifice marriage and children for a career. No profession, no amount of money is worth it!”

Yes, I continue to date, but there is nothing much out there. I have discovered that the men in my age bracket who are successful want young women, and they get them. And if they are not successful, it is difficult to respect them. I do need someone to look up to – I just can’t marry a loser. I wish that I had found your book, The Committed Marriage earlier in life. How different everything would have been for me -but I do hope that you will print my letter. If I know that people will learn from my mistakes, it will give me a measure of comfort. No answer is required.

A Brokenhearted Successful Woman

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Teens Who Give Up Their Religion

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Let’s look at an example of how mentoring improved the life of a teenager who had given up observing Jewish tradition.

Last year two parents, Levy and Sarah, came to talk to me about their sixteen-year-old son named Chaim. These parents are first-generation Americans whose families came from Russia in the 1950s.  Their family had never experienced the problem of an at-risk teenager and they wanted to see if I could help them.

After exploring their relationship with Chaim, I wanted to find out about other relationships that may prove useful in helping Chaim to feel better about himself.


Daniel Schonbuch (DS): I realize that Chaim seems very unhappy at home. Is there anybody outside of the family that he connects with?

Sarah: He loves going to our neighbor’s house. They have a son the same age. He is a much better boy and likes talking to Chaim. I think his parents can handle my son’s mishugas and Chaim likes the attitude in their home.

DS: He likes their attitude? What do you mean?

Levy: Well, they treat him differently from the way we do. You know what it’s like – it’s hardest to get along with the people closest to you. When you are not that close, you can be friendly.

Sarah: Probably because your friends aren’t responsible for you. So whatever goes is okay.

DS: Yes, I think that’s part of it. There is another reason why sometimes children prefer their friends more than their family. The reason is that their friends don’t try to control or criticize them. It’s like grandparents. I often say that they get all the nachas and none of the tzuris. Perhaps parents should be more like grandparents. Do you see what I mean?

Sarah: Are you saying we aren’t friendly enough with him? How can we be? He is falling apart and needs help. Can’t you do something?

DS: Well, that’s what I’m here for. I try to help people realize that even in the worst cases, there is always something you can do. The first thing I want you to realize is that everything you tried up until now hasn’t worked. If you want to help Chaim, you need to stop trying to control him and replace control with a deepening relationship. From the time he was born, your relationship has been based on control. You expected him to do what you wanted – when to go to bed, who to play with, and when to do his homework. However, Chaim has changed; he no longer accepts your control and has taken you out of his inner world. He wants something new that you need to give him.

Sarah: What’s that?

DS: He needs love and friendship. That means that you need to develop a new strategy for parenting. The more you try to control him, the further he wants to get away. I want you to end that kind of relationship and start something new.


We talked about the importance of taking all language of control and criticism out of their dialogue and replacing it with love and acceptance, and I explained the need for them to monitor their words to evaluate if they are bringing them closer or further away from Chaim.

The next week, Sarah and her husband came back for a second session. This time they seemed more optimistic. We talked about their interactions with Chaim and they said that although nothing really changed, at least they had stopped fighting.

I was encouraged by these small steps, and I asked if Chaim would agree to come in to talk. I wanted to find out more about his inner world. Two weeks later, Chaim came into my office. Our conversation follows.


DS: Tell me a bit about what you do like in life. What are you good at in school?

Chaim: Well, I don’t like studying gemarah or chumash very much, but I do like writing and music.

DS: What do you like writing about?

Chaim: I don’t know. I guess about a lot of things. I enjoy writing about outer space.

DS: What about outer space?  Is it about planets, stars, or people traveling there?

Chaim: I think people going away to different galaxies is cool. They get to find out about new things and get away from this boring world. No more fighting, just finding out about new stuff.

DS: What do you think happens when people are flying in the same space ship for a long time? Doesn’t it get boring up there too?

Chaim: I guess so.

DS: So what do you think makes it interesting when you’re put together in a box and are drifting out into space for years at a time?

Chaim: I’m not sure.

DS: It might be that if the people have good relationships, they probably enjoy spending a lot of time together – even out in space. Do you see what I mean?

Chaim: I guess so.

DS: What I’m trying to say is that enjoying life out in space and maybe here in this world is all about having good relationships. Can I ask you a question? What relationships do you enjoy and which people are you having trouble with?

Chaim: Well, I hate my parents and I think my rabbis are boring. I don’t think I like talking to anyone. My rabbis don’t have any idea how I’m feeling!

DS: Is that true? Was there a time when you knew some rabbis that you liked?

Chaim: I loved my second grade rebbe. He was really cool. I remember him talking about space. When I was in his grade, there was a launch of the space shuttle, and I remember him talking about it. He was so funny. He always knew how to get us interested in what we were learning even if he had to go off the page for a few minutes. We trusted him. He knew how to enjoy life.


At that session, I found what I was looking for – a small opening to Chaim’s inner world. He was sharing with me something he had hidden away for about ten years, the rebbe he enjoyed in school. I believed that if he could connect with someone like his rebbe, he could develop a relationship that could provide a springboard for his recovery. I told Chaim that his rebbe sounded like a man he could be honest with. I asked if he would call up his rebbe and just say hello and to tell him that he still had fond memories of his class. Chaim turned out to be very receptive to the idea.

Later that week he contacted his former rebbe, who suggested that he come to meet and talk about how he was feeling. He also told Chaim that he was willing to talk to him whenever he needed and invited him to his home for a Shabbos meal.

Over the course of the next few months, despite all of the ups and downs, I saw Chaim slowly come back to life. We had numerous discussions about astronomy and space travel and about deepening his ability to maintain positive relationships with his rebbe and with his parents.

I also worked with Chaim’s parents encouraging them to follow my lead and to

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch

Ready! Set! Go! : A New Paradigm for Shidduch Dating

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

One Jew. One lonely Jew. Our brother. Our sister. Our neighbor. Our friend. Frustrated. Bewildered. Alone.

One Jew. That is all.

This essay is based on a simple observation: Every time we address a friend’s status or see a neighbor as a social issue, we risk becoming part of the problem. All our heartfelt best efforts – shidduch meetings, be-on-the-lookout calls, speed dating, shidduch dating articles – contribute to the shidduch problem if we forget for one instance the flesh-and-blood human being whom we intend to help.

This is no small problem. Much of our community relies on an impersonal and dehumanizing serial blind-dating shidduch system in which older singles engage in an endless cycle of resume-based dating. The system is widely reviled. It has no basis in Jewish law or tradition. It is antithetical to Jewish values. And it doesn’t work.

So why does it still exist? It persists only because we, through countless daily decisions, perpetuate it. It persists because well-meaning people too often fail to value the flesh-and-blood humans they are trying to help. It persists because singles allow themselves to be defined by their resumes and appearances rather than their character and personality.

What is needed is a new paradigm for shidduch dating, one based on the simple needs of real human beings. Let’s call this new approach

“Ready! Set! Go!” It is based on the simple idea that we, in our neighborhoods and our communities, can replace the serial blind-dating system that has evolved in the older, shidduch-dating community with a system based on friendships, relationships and trust.

The approach described here is inherently Jewish – and one our community sorely needs. If you agree with these ideas, please give them a try. They can be implemented by each of us, within our families and communities.

We need not find rabbis or leaders to blame, nor is it necessary to ask anyone’s permission. We need only reject cold and alienating practices and instead open up our hearts, expand our reach, and create warmer, stronger and more loving communities.

So here goes:


The first step is perhaps the most difficult: singles and their family and friends must acknowledge reality. After two or three years, they must acknowledge that the traditional shidduch dating system that worked well for many of their friends has failed, and that they have entered a new system: the cold and impersonal serial shidduch blind-dating system.

Faced with the realization that the system has failed them, people can start asking why and then attempt to come up with an answer: “The system failed because I had unrealistic expectations.” “I wasn’t ready to get married, so now I need to deal with my fears.” “I really don’t do well on blind dates.” “I need to quit my job go back to school move out of the house speak to a therapist go to singles events make new friends get over him (or her) date more date less ”

There may be a clear answer (“my sister’s ugly divorce left me gun shy”). Or there may be no reasonable answer at all.

But no matter what the answer, there is one crucial strategy for being ready: re-invest in old friendships and relationships and commit to developing new ones.

Friendships and relationships are their own reward. Being a good friend and neighbor is what much of the Torah is about. For singles, though, stronger relationships have added benefit. Real friendships and relationships relieve the isolation imposed on single people in the family-oriented frum community. Real friendships and relationships counteract the judgementalism that infects the serial shidduch blind-dating system. And real friendships and relationships create dating opportunities based upon real people, not their resumes.

Singles who have entered the serial bind-dating system should also devote significant efforts to developing a special relationship with a mentor. Entering the shidduch serial-dating system can be a lot like entering the advanced stages of a challenging video game – a bizarre, labyrinthine world requiring unique skills and knowledge to navigate to safety. Most people need help.

Not only that; singles, like all of us, face their own unique personal challenges. Often, these challenges lead, over time, to a fuller, more interesting, life. Yet singles are discouraged from acknowledging their own challenges because what to (reasonable) people are normal human conditions and experiences can be transformed by the system into horribly disfiguring flaws – “His sister is color-blind!” “Her brother is divorced!” “She wears a size [fill in the number]!”

In this way, long-term shidduch dating can often act like a dangerous flu. The virus itself may not kill you, but the high fever your body triggers to destroy the virus just might. Normal human challenges may be difficult to face, but a prolonged period of trying to present a perfect resume in the serial shidduch dating system can be more harmful than the underlying challenge itself.

That’s why anyone embarking on serial shidduch dating should seek out friends and mentors who can provide him or her with honest, dispassionate insight and advice about relationships – a rosh yeshiva, a community rabbi, a good friend, or a professional therapist (depending on the available resources, and one’s views of the appropriate roles these professionals should play).

The primary criterion should be that this friend and mentor cares specifically about the single and his or herneeds, hopes and desires. After all, that’s what the process is all about.

If you have real, trusting friendships, a mentor you can rely on, and have identified and are addressing your unique challenges, chances are you are Ready!


After reaching the Ready! stage, getting properly Set! is critically important; transforming the nature of the first few dates is crucial to successful dating.

In the serial blind-dating system, dates are devoted to screening – i.e., judging people to see if they meet your standards. There is little opportunity to just enjoy each other’s company, to share experiences, to exchange stories, to laugh. But that approach defeats the very purpose of dating, which requires you to be yourself as you relate to your date.

Singles should, therefore, try to minimize if not entirely eliminate the “double-blind” date – where the couple not only has never met but neither party has even met the person who set them up. There is nothing to do on such a date but spend time testing and judging the total stranger one has just met. Even the “half-double-blind” – where one of the parties has met the shadchan – should be used sparingly.

Instead of resume-based dating, singles should arrange dates based on real relationships and trust. Friends, family and communities are crucial to this effort. People sincerely interested in making shidduchim for singles would be well advised to curtail their extensive efforts at setting up people they don’t know at all – the shidduch meetings, the be-on-the-lookout calls, the speed dating, and all the other practices that depersonalize and dehumanize the flesh-and-blood people they are trying to bring together. Instead, they can spend their time getting to know the singles they want to help – as neighbors and friends, not as projects.

This may seem like a radical idea. After all, serial blind-dating usually does work – eventually.

But this eventual success comes at enormous cost. Dating in the current resume-based system is based largely on superficial qualifications; more and more people chasing fewer and fewer stellar resumes. In a system based upon real people and communities, we get to know and value individuals, set them up with appropriate dates, and support them through the process. The result: fewer, better dates – and a focus on people rather than resumes.

This approach can also address another problem. In the current resume-based system, those with less impressive resumes can find it difficult to attract dates – even though they may have stellar characters and would make exceptional mates. By getting to know singles as real people, we are more likely to set people up with those for whom they are best suited, not those whom we consider the best “catch.”

Informal singles events can be an important part of the solution. When done properly, these settings provide a judgment-free zone in which people can be themselves.

In many cases, singles are already, through school or work, interacting socially with gentiles and non-religious Jews but nevertheless feel constrained from socializing with their religious peers. Communities, families and friends can help address this challenge. A well-placed voice of approval can go a long way toward helping singles participate without risking any cost to their reputation.

A story. One of my friends attended a small yeshiva by day and a secular college at night – a college with many frum women. His rosh yeshiva delivered frequent, fiery speeches warning of the consequences of fraternization. But boys will be boys and girls will be girls; class notes were shared, study groups formed, friendships developed. Over time, friendships became relationships; some got serious; dating and marriage followed.

And then a funny thing happened. The very rosh yeshiva who by day had delivered fiery speeches against the evils of fraternization, by night presided over the weddings of the couples who had broken his rules – indeed whose marriages resulted from breaking those rules.

The rosh yeshiva’s rules against fraternization were designed to protect his yeshiva. For the yeshiva itself, they were good rules; after all, if the yeshiva’s college program gained a “bad reputation,” it might be cancelled entirely and the yeshiva might be forced to close. But for the students, the rules made little sense.

Much like the students in my friend’s yeshiva, many people belong to multiple communities, some of which prohibit and some of which permit them to meet and date on their own. And, like the rosh yeshiva in the story, even members of communities that frown on these activities will typically forgive singles who meet on their own (so long as they adhere to halachic guidelines).

Singles events are not a solution, though; they are merely a tool. The frum community has a number of its own singles scenes, many of them as isolating and alienating as the serial shidduch-dating system. They fail for the same reason: the lack of real friendships and relationships that can help people be themselves and provide the support they need as they move through the process.

When you can be yourself on a date, without worrying too much about what image you present, and when you can judge your date primarily by how much you enjoy him or her as a person, chances are you are Set!


Relationships often falter at the end of the process. Commitment time is at hand but the safety is on, the trigger is stuck. There is no easy solution at this stage of the process. That is why creating friendships and relationships at the Ready! and Set! stages are crucial. The relationships fostered through these stages can help a single proceed directly to Go!

If you find you cannot pass Go!, simply go back to Ready! and Set! Do not resort to serial blind dating. Trust in your family, friends and community; spend time with your friends; seek out new ones. And most of all, continue to trust in yourself.

One More True Story

A friend of mine was an “older single” when his roommate got engaged. That started him thinking about why he himself hadn’t gotten married yet. He and I spent a good deal of time talking about his relationships and experiences. (Ready!)

His roommate’s fianc? introduced him in shul to her best friend. They met again over lunch, then again at a singles event, and yet again at the roommate’s wedding – where he asked her out.

Date Three had always been an important barometer for my friend, since that is the point at which, under the rules, shidduch dating is supposed to turn serious. Though lately he had been dating more informally, he still tried to apply the rules.

At the end of the date, he walked me through his concerns. “She’s not this enough for me,” he said. “Wait,” I told him, “she’s very this.'” He thought for a second, smiled, and agreed.

But then he frowned. “But she’s not that enough for me,” he said, this time sounding badly stressed. “Wait,” I said, “not only is she verythat, but she’s more that than you are.” He thought again, and this time he laughed.

But then he frowned again. “Wait,” he began. “Wait ” But try as he might, he couldn’t even begin to think of what the other might be that concerned him more than this and that. “Anyway,” I told him, “what’s the big deal about a fourth date?” (Set!)

My friend had met someone within the context of a strong social network. He had learned to ignore the social constraints of the shidduch system that didn’t work for him, such as the demand that he feel a certain way by a certain date. He had learned to be less judgmental. Now he had a chance to date the way he wanted, the way that might work for him.

He asked her out again. Three months later they were engaged. (Go!)

Mordecai (Marty) Bienstock is a partner at the law firm of Wilson Elser in Albany, New York, where he lives with his wife, Karen, and their three children. He is a reformed and repentant serial shidduch dater, with serial dating experience across North America and the Middle East.

Mordecai Bienstock

Title: In-Laws: It’s All Relative

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Title: In-Laws: It’s All Relative

Author: Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD

And Leah Shifrin Averick, LCSW

Publisher: ArtScroll, Shaar Press



   In-laws: It’s All Relative, a new book by psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Twerski and Leah Shifrin Averick, LCSW, offers insights into common issues affecting all in-laws. They include the first meeting between the new couple and his parents and hers (machatonim), what to call the in-laws, making wedding plans, divided loyalties over where to spend holidays, sibling-in-law relationships, gifts and monetary aid, and others.


   In-laws: It’s All Relative describes many of the common situations that might arise as new couples begin their lives together, and aids them in avoiding potential pitfalls. The book is a valuable resource for both teacher and student in bride (kallah) and groom (chattan) classesbefore marriage and would make an appropriate shower gift to start the young couple – and their in-laws – on the right path.


   Commonsense advice and humane values in this book combine to ease the transition from individuals to members of a new loving family.

Gabriella A. Rosenfeld

Title: In-Laws: It’s All Relative

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Title: In-Laws: It’s All Relative

Author: Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD

And Leah Shifrin Averick, LCSW

Publisher: ArtScroll, Shaar Press



   In-laws: It’s All Relative, a new book by psychiatrist Dr. Abraham Twerski and Leah Shifrin Averick, LCSW, offers insights into common issues affecting all in-laws. They include the first meeting between the new couple and his parents and hers (machatonim), what to call the in-laws, making wedding plans, divided loyalties over where to spend holidays, sibling-in-law relationships, gifts and monetary aid, and others.


   In-laws: It’s All Relative describes many of the common situations that might arise as new couples begin their lives together, and aids them in avoiding potential pitfalls. The book is a valuable resource for both teacher and student in bride (kallah) and groom (chattan) classesbefore marriage and would make an appropriate shower gift to start the young couple – and their in-laws – on the right path.


   Commonsense advice and humane values in this book combine to ease the transition from individuals to members of a new loving family.

Gabriella A. Rosenfeld

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/title-in-laws-its-all-relative/2010/05/12/

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